2012 NCAA Football Preview

The college football landscape is changing before our very eyes. This season the SEC expands to include Missouri and Texas A&M. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will join the ACC in 2013. In 2014, of course, we finally get the four-team playoff system we’ve dreamed about. But the more things in the NCAA change, the more they stay the same. Perennial powers LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma won’t budge in this year’s top 5. All three stacked squads will compete for a national title, but INsite feels the USC Trojans (QB Matt Barkley pictured) are the ones on the verge of something truly historic—becoming the first Pac-12 team ever, and first non-SEC school since ’05, to win a BCS championship. See, some change is good. Check out the top 25 here…

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Talkin’ Shoes and Shady Fans with Josh Smith

When Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith reflects on his home court, Philips Arena, his feelings are understandably mixed. The A-Town native loves it when a packed house goes bonkers after he throws down one of his monster jams; he just hates it when that same packed house of fickle fans erupts just as loudly for Blake Griffin or Dwyane Wade.

“This year we were rated the worst sports town in all the United States,” Smith says. “I feel like we do deserve a little gratification from the fans. We’ve been good for five, six years now. I know it’s probably hard because of the recession to be able to get good seats, but you know, people inspire me in the nosebleeds. I just want to see you in the stands.”

Read more on Slamonline.com

10 Athletes the World Should Be Watching in London

Few events attract the eyes of the entire world like the Summer Olympics. Beginning Friday, July 27, every moment of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will be shown live on NBC’s family of networks and its website. For those counting at home, that’s some 5,535 hours of coverage. Over 17 exciting days, familiar sports icons like LeBron James and Usain Bolt will be heard time and again. But for every Michael Phelps and Serena Williams, there are literally thousands of other athletes around the globe with amazing talents and fascinating stories to share (including Brazilian soccer sensation Marta). Here are 10 largely unknown Olympic athletes we’ll be keeping up with over the spirited weeks ahead in London, as well as a guide to the best times to see them each in action.

The New Gold Standard: A Chat with First-Time Olympian Blake Griffin

It has to be a humbling experience to be a superstar player, making millions as a savior of an NBA franchise, yet having to essentially audition for a spot on a basketball team. That’s basically what Blake Griffin had to do in Las Vegas last week before USA Basketball Men’s National Team coach Mike Krzyzewski and chairman Jerry Colangelo. But as the world knows by now, Blake, Andre Iguodala and James Harden dazzled enough in their respected casting calls to be granted the final three spots on Redeem Team 2.

I was in the audience for the official roster announcement on Saturday. Coach K spoke about commitment and upcoming challenges; Colangelo discussed athleticism and roster depth; Kobe Bryant and LeBron James made their usual patriotic proclamations. As for Blake, the gravity-ignoring All-Star just sat quietly on the stage, looking like the new kid in class. Thankfully, after the announcement, the Clippers’ prized pupil was in a more talkative mood, electing to chat with reporters about everything from the selection process to his humbling role on the super squad. Click this SLAMonline link to see what BG told me and the rest of the group.

Going One-on-One with Wladimir Klitschko

My first scheduled interview with reigning heavyweight boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko didn’t work out because of time-zone confusion. (Wait, how many hours ahead of Atlanta is Klitschko’s native Ukraine again?) The second interview didn’t pan out because training for Wlad’s July 7 title defense against American Tony Thompson ran well into the night. Frustrations started building on this end. My deadline was approaching, but I knew Klitschko (57-3, 50 KO’s) had so many boxing-related items (controversial Pacquiao-Bradley decision, boxing’s fragile overall state, retirement rumors) to get off his chest. This third interview just had to come together. Thankfully, it did because nobody would have wanted to see my mean side as I labored to set up a fourth interview, not even Mr. Klitschko… Kidding, champ, kidding.

Angel McCoughtry Shoots for the Stars

Angel McCoughtry, star forward for the Atlanta Dream, is arguably one of the 10 best female basketball players on the planet. Last season, the 6-1 offensive machine was first-team All WNBA, tied for the league lead in scoring (21.6 points per game) and the main reason the Dream made a second consecutive WNBA Finals appearance. She’s already leading the League in scoring (22.6) this year. Later this summer she’ll take her hoops act on the road with the U.S. Women’s National Team as it goes for gold at the Summer Games in London. How she finds time to dominate on the court while still pursuing her other love, professional singing, is beyond me.

Congratulations on making the U.S. National Team. What does that feel like?

Oh man. You know what? I mean, it was a couple years ago I was watching the U.S. team in China and all the girls that I am playing with now were on that team, so it’s like, “Wow, I’m on this USA team with the girls that I was just watching a few years back.”  So, you know, it was, of course, a goal and a dream. I think that anybody who plays a sport, they actually dream about it. We know everybody doesn’t get to go, but to be a chosen one…I’m very honored and it makes me work a little harder. You know, some people work hard and they get there and they are like, “Ooh, I’m here. Yeah.” But I’m like, “Man, this means I want to work even harder now.”  It is always a motivational thing.

Let’s stay with motivation for a second. The Atlanta Dream have done really well in the playoffs, but you haven’t quite gotten over the hump. What is going to be the motivation this season to get to that next level?

Um, I think last year would be motivation enough. I mean, we started out rough and it was a tough moment for us, so I know that we don’t want to go there again. So that is motivation enough. The great thing about the team is that we learned from [the WNBA Finals]. We didn’t quit. We could have easily quit, but we didn’t. We kept fighting and showed our heart. So, everybody works pretty hard on the team, you know what I mean? It is a bunch of great people.  It is really a lot of fun to play with the group of girls that we have, a lot of great personalities.  And I am really starting to get to know [Dream ’12 draft pick] Tiffany Hayes. Good girl. She is a sweet girl and she can play. So, we definitely got a steal, a good steal.

If you were WNBA commissioner, what are a few things you would change about the league?

If I was WNBA commissioner, the first thing I would change is our commercials. Our commercials basically only come on NBA TV. Our commercials would come on any channel at any time, because that is how you get real promotion. I mean like, when people watch NBA TV, we’ve got those fans already. You know what I’m saying?  Like when, for instance, a reality TV show is on [makes more sense for an ad]. One of those commercials needs to be a WNBA commercial. And millions of people would view that. So, I definitely would figure out a way of hiring one of the best PR/marketing firms in the world. Then, not only would the WNBA be broadcast in the States, but the whole world would know. They will know the girls, the superstars, in the WNBA. In China and India, they all need to see our face. You know, they know the NBA players all over the world. Why don’t they know us? We work just as hard, we’re just as good. We’ve gotta get promotion. People need to see us. And that’s it. People only know what they see. They’ve got to know that we can ball like we can.

If I knew somebody at the league, I would definitely slide your name on their desk. Now, besides being a great basketball player and WNBA lobbyist, what else do you do really well?

You already know that! Music. I love music and I’m really passionate about it. And honestly, I’ve been getting good. Of course, you’ve got the people that are like, “Oh, you need to stay in your lane. You’re a basketball player. No basketball player is successful in music.” Well, guess what? Those were men basketball players, honey. You’re about to see the first woman basketball player [succeed] in music, because I’m working on getting a record deal, and my music…people like my music. It ain’t cheesy. It’s very professional and sounds great. And I got some more videos coming out soon, and I’m gonna do great things with the music thing, you just wait and see. I’m gonna surprise people. People will be like, “That ain’t Angel.” So, that’s my goal.

How did that love for music come about?

I always loved it growing up, but I never really went for it. So, about last year, I was like, “You know what? I’m gonna actually do something that I set out to do.” I’ve been playing ball since I was eight. I know I got this down. But sometimes we’ve gotta step out of the box. Sometimes people are going to be negative about it, but so what? You’ve got to step out of the box. You have to broaden your mind. So that is what I did, and it just started where I got a beat and I started writing. My song “Illusion,” I don’t know if you’ve heard it, but I wrote that all by myself. In one night, I wrote that song. [The latest single] “Baby I’m a Star,” I had help with that. I had writers and all that. But, “Illusion,” I just wrote that all by myself. I just started writing music. [I thought] I’m gonna do this. I started getting people around me to help me, the right people, and it really just started taking off from there. That’s why I said, if you have a dream, you just have to really go for it. You don’t know unless you try. We all have dreams that we just kinda let pass by sometimes. Shoot, if you just actually try to do something with it, who knows what can come about?

 

Hello, My Name is Kevin Durant

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Over at SLAM.com, they’ve been publishing old stories that introduced current NBA stars when they were in high school. Before recently, I didn’t realize I was the first person to debut to the nation a skinny kid from Maryland named Kevin Durant… Yep, the same Kevin Durant currently starring for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals. But look here and you’ll see that I was. Kinda cool, huh?

Diamond Distress

There are three definites in life: death, taxes and injuries in baseball. While you may have only heard about the first two before now, Bob Murphy, head athletic trainer at Georgia State University, can assure you that the third is also a rock-solid truth.

But Murphy and his NCAA colleagues aren’t taking that last statement sitting down. In fact, over the past decade or so, there have been philosophical changes to training and working out that many feel are helping baseball players excel on the field and stay off hospital beds.

“There seems to be more of a year-round approach to sports now,” says Murphy, who’s worked with GSU’s baseball team and its other sports since 2007. “Back when I started, there used to be pretty much an offseason where you didn’t do much. But now, athletes at the college level and up pretty much are participating in their sport year-round, which is good because it kind of keeps you in shape. We just have to watch and make sure they don’t overdo it too much with certain things.”

Another change Murphy’s noticed amongst his peers is with their mental switch from merely rehabilitating to now preventing injuries altogether. It’s with that mold of thinking that FUEL approached Murphy about three common baseball ailments to get the best advice on averting them in the first place. Continue reading

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